Short-term medical policies that would cost less, but also offer less coverage than normally required by the state, were debated Wednesday by lawmakers.
Among the care that would be cut are treatments for diabetes and HIV.
Currently these short-term policies, which already include some coverage restrictions, are limited to six months. This proposal, which passed in the House earlier this month, would extend the policies to cover up to a year, while removing further coverage areas, to lower the cost.
Bill proponents argue that these exemptions will allow the short-term policies to provide coverage for a year instead of just six months. But opponents worry that because these plans don’t cover things like pre-exisiting conditions, those who had to use them would have poor coverage for longer.
The legislation has already been passed by the House, and was debated in a Senate committee on Wednesdsay.
Representative Justin Hill, R-Lake St. Louis, the bill’s sponsor, talked about how with the current six-month limit, people who find themselves in need of these short-term policies are having to choose between paying double the deductible to get a year of coverage or facing the risk of only being covered for six months.
“If they buy one policy and then develop a pre-existing condition, they go six months without coverage," Hill said. "I was running into constituents who didn’t have an option. They lost coverage because they developed a condition, and they had to wait until an open enrollment period to get coverage.”
The bill had supporters and opponents speak out at the early morning hearing. Insurance companies and lobbyists spoke on behalf of the bill, arguing that it gives citizens who experiencing a gap of coverage a cheaper option that they can enroll in at anytime.
Groups such as the American Cancer Society and the American Heart Association had representatives testify against the bill, arguing that exempting these short-term policies from crucial medical coverage would be devastating to people who need that care.
The six-month plans are exempt from providing crucial medical care such as cancer screenings and bone marrow transplants, and extending those policies could be detrimental for patients who need these services, they said.
“By allowing them to expand to a year, these products can become substitutes for major medical insurance and would not be subject to those important state law protections that help people get diagnosed with cancer at an earlier stage and cover their treatment when they do get diagnosed,” said a representative from the American Cancer Society.
Insurance companies and lobbyists were also present at the hearing to testify in favor of the bill arguing that it gives people a more flexible and cheaper option for temporary coverage.
The additional areas of coverage that would be exempted from the insurance coverage include:
-Loss or impairment of speech or hearing
-Maternity benefits including 48 hours of inpatient care following a vaginal delivery or any post discharge care/visits